Teen escapes prostitution with customer’s help
By Janice Gregorson
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
Quick thinking by a 16-year-old girl allowed to her flee a hotel room and help authorities charge a Rochester man with forcing her into prostitution.
The girl mouthed the words "help me" to a man in a Rochester hotel room after another woman told the man he didn’t have enough money for them to perform sex acts with him.
A criminal complaint says the customer held the other woman back and allowed the girl to race out of the room.
The man accused of bringing the women to Rochester to practice prostitution, was charged with three felony counts Monday in Olmsted District Court.
Sean Miguel Thomas, 41, who told Judge Debra Jacobson he lives at 5933 25th Ave. N.W., was arraigned on charges of soliciting someone under 18 to practice prostitution, promoting prostitution in someone under 18 and receiving profit from prostitution of someone under 18. If convicted he faces a presumptive nine year prison term, according to prosecutor Karen Sullivan-Hook.
Jacobson set unconditional bail at $50,000 and conditional bail at $25,000. Thomas returns to court Sept. 22.
Sullivan-Hook said all information law enforcement has is that Thomas lives in Crystal, Minn., not Rochester. She also told the judge that Thomas has a criminal history that includes a conviction in Hennepin County for attempted second-degree murder in 1994 and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Defense attorney Bill Wright said Thomas used to live in Crystal, but has lived in Rochester the past six months and noted that Thomas satisfied his sentence and is off supervised release. He said he has no other felony convictions. He sought a lower bail.
According to the criminal complaint, police were called to the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center at 1517 16th St. S.W. about 1:30 a.m. Saturday about an argument and fight in a room. Officers learned that a man had been at Rookie’s bar earlier in the evening, met a 41-year-old woman and started talking to her. They went to his motel room. The 16-year-old was with them. While in the room, he said the older woman took his wallet, started counting his money and told him he didn’t have enough for them to perform sexual acts with him. The man said it appeared the two women were not getting along with each other. He said that is when the teen looked at him and silently moved her mouth asking for help. He said ran toward the door and held the older woman back so the teen could leave; that he and the woman struggled about three minutes before she, too, left the room. The women left a cell phone and purse in the room when they left.
It was the cell phone that led police to Thomas or "T-Money," as the runaway calls him.
Police said when they were in the motel room, the cell phone started to ring. An officer answered the phone and a man said he needed the phone and wallet back. He said he was at Rookies and would call police if the items were not returned. At the same time, another officer reported he had located one of the female suspects at the bar.
The bartender told the officer he had seen two women talking to a man for about 10 minutes before they all left for the hotel. The two women later returned to the bar and were talking about a cell phone. A man came in, took the older woman bythe arm and took her out of the bar to a van. The bartender gave police the license number. The bartender also pointed out the younger woman, who was still in the bar, to the officer.
She told police she was a runaway from Minneapolis; that she came to Rochester with "T-Money," who was later identified as Thomas. She said she met the other woman through him.
The teen said she and Thomas went to Motel 6 in Rochester and Thomas was prostituting her. She said she had sex with three males at the motel, received $100 each time, and gave the money to Thomas. She said Thomas wanted her to make more money and the other woman came to the room; they went to a couple bars before going to Rookies where the older woman started talking to the man. She said the older woman told her to come to the Ramada with them. She told officers that is when she asked the man for help. She said the other woman tried to stop her from leaving the room, but she fled with her phone. The two women later met up again at Rookies and the teen called Thomas for a ride and he came to the bar. The girl said she met Thomas outside and he went into the bar to get the older woman. She said when they came to the van, she got out and went back into the bar.
About 3:45 a.m., police learned the van had returned to Motel 6 before proceeding on the West Frontage Road of U.S. 52 North. The vehicle was stopped and Thomas was arrested, the complaint said.